Welcome to the second installment of my responses to many of the arguments in the Christian debating iPhone App called "Fast Facts" (more like "Rushed Assumptions" or "Hasty Babbling"). You can find Part 1 of my discussion here.

In Part 1, I've listed several challenges that Christians receive, and the weak, meaningless babble that they're supposed to spout in response to them. Then I picked apart those responses and tore it to shreds.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Challenge: "Religion is a mater of faith, not evidence."

Right away, I can tell you that this challenge is a strawman. A better challenge would be something more along the lines of, "Religion is a matter of faith in scripture, even after evidence has proven them wrong."

Respond by asking, "What do you mean by faith?" Those who raise this challenge typically define faith as belief without evidence, or even belief that goes against evidence. We should reject these definitions of faith. Biblical faith is trusting in someone or something you know to be dependable. Naturally, evidence impacts the amount of faith you put in someone. For instance, if they've kept their word in the past, you can place firm faith in them for the future. The Bible gives us strong evidence of God's dependability. Far from neglecting or discounting evidence, Christians should be eager to give reason for our hope in Christ (1 Pt 3:15).

Ooh, a Bible passage! First off, I must put forth the proper definition of "faith". You're gonna love this one. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the first two listings for the definition of "faith" are as follow:

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

According to "Fast Facts", faith can only be defined as the belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of something. But that's only a partial definition. It is also the belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

That's what religious faith is: the second definition.

That said, let's move on. "Fast Facts" then goes on to demonstrate their limited definition of faith by mentioning that if somebody has proven in the past to be dependable, then they can be trusted to be so again in the future. While this is true, this does not fit into the accepted definition of "faith". Not only do you have faith in this person, but his/her dependability and reliability has been tested and proven in the past. The same cannot be said of religion, God, or the Bible.

As for the biblical passage:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

This is good advice for Christians. Always be prepared with answers. "Fast Facts" doesn't give you answers; it simply gives you weak counter-arguments that are filled with lies and half-truths.

Notice how the FF response says nothing about what evidence exists for the existence of God. Because none exists.

Challenge: "The Bible is unreliable and it's doubtful that Jesus even existed."

This is a fun one. I just mentioned the lack of reliability of the Bible, so let's see what the FF response is:

This is a favorite challenge from atheists. They claim that alleged errors and discrepancies in the Bible cast doubt on Jesus' existence. Though we can show that the Bible is not unreliable, we should also point out that their conclusion does not logically follow from their argument. Imagine reading a book about George Washington. Upon close inspection, you discover that it contains errors and discrepancies. For instance, it says he was a general in the Civil War. Not true! However, does it make sense to doubt Washington's existence? Of course not. In the same way, alleged Bible errors do not disprove Jesus' existence.

I love the use of the word "alleged", like the contradictions and falsehoods in the Bible haven't been concretely demonstrated in the past. Of course it's our favorite challenge, because it's absolutely true.

But the comparison to an error-filled book about Washington is just hilarious. First off, there is already so much insurmountable evidence in favor of the existence of George Washington that it would be silly to even deny he existed. However, if such an error-filled book about Washington were the only one in existence, then you're damn right I'd doubt its reliability.

Let's say a book comes out that states that George Washington was really the second President of the U.S., but another man named Harold Jenkins was the first POTUS, and he was silently overthrown by Washington before anybody caught on. It then goes on to say that Washington was a drunk, and was really Chinese, and aliens were responsible for the crack in the Liberty Bell.

Would you believe such a book, if it were the only one in existence that posited the story of Jenkins and his alleged presidency? If you would, then you need serious mental help.

Of course, the Bible isn't just "one book", but a collection of stories written around the same time. However, it is the only collection that mentions Jesus Christ and his alleged existence and works. Any other non-Biblical written work that refers to Jesus either draws references from the Bible itself (like a second Harold Jenkins book using the first one as evidence for its claims), or refers to the beliefs of existing Christians (like a second Harold Jenkins book using the belief of those who believed the first book, as evidence for its own claims).

The author has utterly failed to defend the criticism of the unreliability of the Bible — his argument didn't apply in this case at all.

Challenge: "If everything that exists needs a cause, then God needs a cause."

Let me preface the FF response by saying that I refuse to accept the above challenge. Atheists really shouldn't resort to claiming that God needs a cause, because it is the believers who have defined God. According to Christians, God is supernatural and infinite, and as such requires no explanation about how he came about.

Granted, that itself makes no sense, but all you'll get in response is, "God is above our understanding and beyond our comprehension," which is obviously a spineless cop-out.

This challenge to the cosmological argument for God's existence creates a straw man by misrepresenting the argument. When stated properly, the argument does not claim that everything needs a cause for its existence. Rather, it says everything that begins to exist needs a cause. This restricts the argument to everything in the natural realm. By definition God is supernatural and eternal. It makes no sense to speak of His coming into existence. Either He exists forever and has no cause, or He does not exist and never will exist. Thus to ask, "Who caused God?" is to set up a false requirement for God's existence.

It is, as the FF author states, a straw man argument, simply because believers have set up a definition of God to be such that it cannot be argued against. So I'd suggest that atheists ignore this one triviality and not bring it up.

But if you're forced to face this meaningless, contrived definition of God, ask them how they know it to be true. Don't accept an answer of, "Well, I believe it to be so," or, "I know it in my heart." Demand an answer that provides solid evidence. I can say that I know in my heart, and believe it to be so, that a magical unicorn lives in my backyard and protects it from extraterrestrials. Look, no aliens have ever entered my backyard! Therefore, the unicorn exists. Sure, I can't provide any evidence, but I know it in my heart to be true.

That's a meaningless answer and demonstrates nothing more than the ignorance of the person saying it.

Challenge: "You can't prove God exists."

This one should be obvious. Of course you can't prove God exists.

Respond by asking what they mean by "prove." They may say you can't prove God exists with 100% certainty. Actually, you can agree that this is true. Then point out that very few things can be proven with 100% certainty. When believers speak of proof for God's existence, what they usually mean is that the evidence that is available to us very strongly supports belief in God. This includes evidence from history (such as God's actions on behalf of Israel), evidence from science (such as Big Bang Cosmology and the fine-tuning of the universe), and arguments from philosophy (such as the existence of universal morals and logic). Belief in God fits the data better than any alternate explanation.

Again, I laughed out loud while reading this. Just read the final sentence again: "Belief in God fits the data better than any alternate explanation." That's the problem: it fits the data because believers have made it fit the data. You can manufacture any explanation that fits the data. That's not how you provide evidence for something. You don't pull something out of your ass that fits the data, and say that as a result it's true. That's circular reasoning and leads nowhere except an endless loop.

At least FF admits that God can't be proven, but to say that nothing can be proven 100% is misleading. How would you define "100% proven"? Is it 100% proven that the Earth revolves around the Sun? I would argue that yes, it is 100% proven, and I can honestly say with certainty that we will never find out somehow that a completely different theory better explains the relationship of the Earth and the Sun than the Heliocentric Theory.

We know the Heliocentric Theory (HT) to be true, because it has been demonstrated to be true, and there is overwhelming evidence in support of it. What scientists did was propose the HT as a hypothesis, test it, then declare it a theory (which in this case means proven fact).

This is not what believers do. Instead of positing "Goddidit" as a hypothesis, testing it, then declaring it to be a working theory, they started with the theory, then made sure the explanation fit the data, rather than the data pointing to the explanation.

What believers are doing in this case is filling in the gaps of our modern day knowledge with God, like homemade plaster on a wall that people are already trying to fix properly. Construction workers are trying to fix the wall with the proper tools, and there we have the believers splashing plaster into the few remaining gaps that they made at home with sponge cake batter and dirt.

Challenge: "A loving God would never let people suffer."

I've never liked the arguments against God that say that God would never ____, or ____ would never be allowed to happen. But let's read the FF response:

Begin by asking what they mean by love. Ideas about love are often overly emotional. We associate love with warm feelings, but that is a skewed and incomplete perspective. At its core, love is a decision to seek the good of another person. Sometimes it doesn't feel good, as when a parent takes their child to the doctor for a shot, knowing that the short-tern pain will bring long-term health. God's purpose for our lives is not simple pleasure and happiness. He wants us to become mature, Christlike humans. Suffering matures us like nothing else. Because of His love, God allows us to experience suffering.

You got that? It's tough love, that's all. When God allows millions in third-world countries to starve to death, that's just tough love. That kind of suffering will mature people in that country, obviously. Infants born with deformities that cause pain and suffering? That's God utilizing tough love to mature that infant until it's so "mature" that it dies from its inflictions. Got that, people? It's just tough love.

When a parent brings a child to have immunizations, it's because it has been demonstrated in the past to be reliably true that these shots will have a long-term positive effect. Can believers ever demonstrate that God's tough love is beneficial in the long-run? Can they ever show us how God allowing people to suffer pointlessly is somehow helping to "mature" us?

There is such a thing as pointless suffering. Allowing us to experience it with no positive effect isn't love, it's sadism and cruelty at its finest.

That's all for now. There are enough Challenges and Tactics for a Part 3, as well as the "Fast Facts" section for a Part 4, and possibly more. Coming in Part 3, we've got Jesus' story resembling that of prior deities and figures, the God-of-the-gaps fallacy, imperfection as evidence against a designer, and "rock too heavy for God to lift" argument.

In Part 4, we'll learn some "facts" about atheism (did you know atheism is a philosophical worldview based on faith?), as well as what makes the Bible so much better than the Koran/Quran, and the amazing prophecies that have been fulfilled by the Bible.

Hilarity will ensue. Stay tuned!

(You can also find an exact copy of this post at my blog here: http://yetanotheratheist.net/2010/08/fast-facts-part-2/)

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